Written by: Samantha Enos – Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Windermere Real Estate
Since our company committed to affecting change with regards to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) nearly two years ago, we’ve established several initiatives that have helped us move the needle toward making Windermere a more diverse organization and homeownership more equitable. Guided by our four DEI pillars—community, home ownership, leadership, and culture—we remain focused on finding paths to address discrimination, racism, and inequity within the real estate industry.
Some of our DEI efforts over the past two years:
- Hired a VP of DEI who is charged with advancing Windermere’s DEI efforts, as well as supporting Windermere offices with their DEI strategies, planning, and programs
- Developed a committee of Windermere agents, staff, and owners to discuss Windermere’s efforts and to provide input on the direction of our DEI strategies
- Conducted ongoing DEI training for the Windermere leadership team, as well as for franchise owners and managers
- Engaged with state and local REALTOR® associations to audit our developing DEI training and educational opportunities offered to agents through our Professional Development department
- Produced instructional documents to educate homeowners on the history of racially restrictive language in property deeds and how to strike/remove such language from their chain of title
- Launched a “Race + Real Estate” playlist on the Windermere Spotify channel that offers a selection of podcasts that explore how members of marginalized communities have historically been denied access to homeownership
Sam Smith “Hi Neighbor” Homeownership Fund
Launched in early 2022 through our partnership with non-profit lender HomeSight, the Sam Smith “Hi Neighbor” Homeownership Fund is designed to help low-to-moderate-income home buyers who have been historically underserved by traditional lenders. Through donations from the Windermere Foundation, U.S. Bank, and JP Morgan Chase, the Sam Smith fund is helping to reduce barriers to homeownership by funding loan products for Black/African American first-time home buyers in Washington State.
We have formed a Board of Directors made up of six agents to help manage the program and drive fundraising. As of May 2022, the Sam Smith fund has raised over $127,000 for first-time home buyers, including a personal donation of $50,000 from the Jacobi family to help seed the fund, with over $58,000 raised this year alone. We are actively seeking partnerships with down payment assistance programs in other states to expand our efforts.
Formed in partnership with the University of Washington College of Built Environments in July 2021, the inaugural Aspire Internship program produced eight interns, all of whom completed the program and received a $5,000 scholarship. We’ve already seen real-world impact stemming from Aspire, with one of the group project proposals contributing to the creation of an agent scholarship program (see WIN below), and in the hiring of an Aspire alumnus at a Windermere office in Seattle. The program is expanding in summer 2022, with nearly double the number of students participating.
WIN Scholarship Program
The WIN Scholarship Program was created after recognizing the need to build and support a diverse community of new agents. The program provides up to $2,500 for qualified new hires to be used for training, educational purposes, and relieving the financial burden of the startup costs involved with becoming a real estate agent. The program has made an impact outside of Windermere, as well. Using the WIN Scholarship as a model, Washington REALTORS® has established a pilot program in which they will sponsor one year of REALTOR® member dues, six months’ worth of MLS fees, and $400 worth of training for qualified BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) agents.
For more information on our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, updates on our company initiatives, and further resources on the history of housing discrimination and its impact on our communities, visit windermere.com/dei.
Samantha Enos currently serves on the Seattle-King County REALTORS® Board of Directors, is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® Mentorship program, and was recently appointed as the Chairperson of the Seattle-King County REALTORS® DEI committee. She also volunteers on the Juanita High School DEI committee.